Kitchen’s Keys: RMU vs. Lafayette

Analytics guru Dan Kitchen takes a closer look into the Robert Morris/Lafayette matchup Saturday

Dan Kitchen, Staff Reporter

This Saturday, Robert Morris, (0-2) and Lafayette (0-1) will face off with both teams looking to earn its first win of the season. Lafayette is coming off a 27-14 loss at the hands of last year’s NEC champion, Sacred Heart. Robert Morris heads to Easton, PA with the taste of a tight three-point loss to North Dakota still looming. Here are some keys for the Colonials to focus on if they want to be the team that hits the locker room with happy.

1. Feed last week’s workhorse
One week after allowing quarterback Luke Brumbaugh to throw the ball a school-record 51 times, offensive coordinator Darrin Hicks completely shifted focus, turning freshman Rameses Owens into the centerpiece of the offensive gameplan. Owens responded by turning 39 carries into 199 yards and a touchdown, and 237 all-purpose yards total after a long reception. Heading into the Lafayette matchup, Owens has all the momentum. Lafayette was one yard shy of allowing three separate players from Sacred Heart to rush for fifty or more yards last week. That is the type of defense Robert Morris will want to capitalize on, especially with a back that is coming off a game that won him The Sports Network FCS Freshman of the Week.

2. Bring the defensive hammer down from the very first play
In their season opener, Robert Morris played a talented offense in Eastern Kentucky. The following week, they played a balanced North Dakota offense, and did well at keeping the opponent in check. Lafayette failed to break 100 yards rushing in their opener, and passed for only 131 yards. Robert Morris has been stellar in red zone defense so far, but why play the contain game for four quarters? They can shut down the Leapord offense. Robert Morris has a chance to ruin Lafayette’s night if they come out swinging, with three-and-outs and forced punts on the first few drives. When a team that is not necessarily efficient on offense can’t get a single drive to gain traction, the thought of “How can we get anything going?” starts to creep through the sideline, and that is just one more obstacle Lafayette will have to overcome if they want to stay competitive Saturday evening.

3. Send extra players on the pass rush
Robert Morris only has two sacks this season. Quarterbacks are a lot more successful when they have enough time in the pocket. Lafayette is the ideal situation for RMU to bring some menace back to their pass rushing. In their opener, Lafayette allowed three sacks and constant pressure to quarterback Drew Reed. That’s more sacks in one game than RMU has total this season. Bring linebackers like Luke Mueller on the outside blitz often. Ryan Lewis had a sack against North Dakota, so look for him to build on last week. Keeping the pressure on will get to the young Lafayette quarterback, which means more mistakes and turnover opportunities. Last week, Reed threw three interceptions. As long as the pass rush is strong, Reed and the Lafayette offense won’t have the time they need to have success passing the ball.

4. Have a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter
Starting the fourth quarter against Eastern Kentucky, Robert Morris was down by 20. They gained 46 total yards, scoring one touchdown and punting three times. They allowed 128 yards and a touchdown in that final quarter, to put the final quarter in perspective. Against North Dakota, the score differential in the fourth quarter was a field goal, and the total yards almost identical. (RMU gained 61 yards, North Dakota 60). That game proved that the Colonials can shut down an offense in a close, fourth-quarter game, but unfortunately for them, the offense has yet to prove they can consistently score points. By coming out firing, harassing the Lafayette quarterback, and scoring early and often, Robert Morris can gain a sustainable lead for the defense to work with. Having a 10-point lead entering the final quarter can give the Colonials the breathing room needed to lock up their first win.